Food Bank reduces delivery fee for Cecil programs
— Cecil County’s feeding programs welcomed the news that the Maryland Food Bank has reduced the price it charges for food delivery from $250 to $100.
In October, the food bank upped the rate it charges for delivery to groups, such as Nicanor and Chesapeake City Ecumenical Association, from $50 to as much as $300. That change prompted an outcry from county feeding programs, who said they’d now have less money to spend on food. Since October, only one county organization — Ray of Hope Mission Center — had placed an order with the food bank.
But this week, the local organizations said they were happy to hear about the rate reduction, which went into effect on July 1.
“We can now afford more food for the people that need it,” Michael Flannery, executive director of Nicanor, said Monday.
Right off the bat, Flannery said the more than 50 percent drop means Nicanor can add more children to its summer feeding program.
“We have 174 now. We’re hoping to go over 200,” he said.
Nicanor provides bags of groceries to children receiving free or reducedprice breakfast and lunch in nine Cecil County public schools and will add Perryville Elementary School to the list when it reopens in August.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the decision,” said Eileen Viars, president of the Chesapeake City Ecumenical Association. “It definitely does help.”
Courtney Barrett, director of Ray of Hope Mission Center in Port Deposit, found out about the rate reduction while on the phone with the food bank to place an order.
“I was shocked, but that’s great. This is much more do-able,” Barrett said.
She had not placed an order in a long time.
“We were down to bare bones,” Barrett said. “I was just going to suck it up and place a big order to hold us for a couple months.”
The food bank raised the delivery charge in October
The reduction of delivery fees by the Maryland Food Bank will make it easier for feeding programs to get resources, after a change to delivery hubs was unpopular in the county.
as part of its effort to make up a $750,000 shortfall. Food bank officials said then that before the delivery charge increase, the food bank was operating on an outdated business model.
“The delivery policies that have been in place since 2006 were appropriate — and sustainable — when the Maryland Food Bank distributed less food,” officials said last year. “At current volumes, however, this model is no longer suitable. As a result, we needed to finetune the way we distribute food, and part of that was implementing new delivery fees beginning Oct. 15.”
On Monday, Meg Kimmel, vice president of external affairs for the food bank, maintained that the $250 fee was “the true cost of delivery to these areas.” However, since October, the food bank has gone through a restructuring process that has allowed it to cap the delivery fees. Though Kimmel noted that only the counties farthest from the organization’s Halethorpe headquarters got the reduction.
Kimmel said the cut was also in response to its member organizations.
“We also heard from our partners that the delivery fees were hard to navigate,” she said.
When the food bank instituted the higher fees last fall, it suggested that several groups could share the delivery fee cost by creating a “Hub” for multiple orders. But this strategy didn’t work for Cecil County.
“There’s not enough organizations out our way to
participate,” Barrett said, noting that Ray of Hope and Nicanor partnered only one time. “It was a big flop, really.”
Viars said that had the food bank increased the charge to just $100 in the first place there may not have been the backlash.
“Donors started realizing they were giving the food to be given away and that wasn’t happening,” Viars said. “Campbell’s Soup now delivers directly to us.”
She is also making contacts with local warehouses to get food donations made directly in county instead of going through the food bank. She finds it frustrating the amount of food that gets thrown away, which could be donated to feed the hungry.
“We have liability insurance for this,” Viars said, adding the donor companies would have no responsibility. She continues to search for local donations.
For now, the people who run these feeding programs are breathing a little easier.
“It’s a good thing. The fees were unobtainable before,” said Gerry Crockett, HELP Center volunteer coordinator. “We actually didn’t order food through the Maryland Food Bank because of that.”
In talking with other feeding programs, Crockett learned that no one in Cecil County appeared to have ordered since the increase, except for Ray of Hope Mission Center.
“I just ordered through Sav-A-Lot,” Crockett said, adding other pantries have similar arrangements with local grocery stores.
An army of volunteers helped Chesapeake City Ecumenical Association unload a donation from Campbell’s Soup Company in April. Nonprofits like CCEA welcomed the Maryland Food Bank’s delivery charges reduction, saying it will further help families in need.